Woman’s confession to pastor used against her in court
DONALDSONVILLE, La. (WAFB) - An Ascension Parish jury handed down an attempted murder conviction against a woman who stabbed her fiancé's other girlfriend with a box-cutter. The jury found Peggy Valentine, 44, guilty of attempted first-degree murder and home invasion.
“There was no sign of forced entry, no doors broken, no windows broken. Somebody had to open the door,” said David Belfield III, Valentine’s attorney.
According to Belfield, Valentine was invited inside the house when she went there on the morning of May 4, 2022, attempting to make amends with the woman who had just had a baby with her fiancé.
“When she found out about the baby, she went to the house with a relative and brought the baby some clothing,” Belfield said. “In her mind, they’re still trying to work the relationship out.”
Ascension Parish Assistant District Attorney Brant Mayer, who prosecuted the case, said Valentine broke into the house and attacked the woman while she was sleeping in her bed. Belfield argues Valentine was let inside the house before the women got into a tussle. After Valentine left, the woman was taken to a hospital and treated for injuries.
Valentine reportedly called her pastor who happens to also be a Major for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. He then advised her to go talk to investigators. Her attorney says she voluntarily went to speak to them because she believed she had only defended herself.
“It was obvious they had interrogated Peggy for a moment. She was very, very distraught at the time. She stopped talking to him, shut down and demanded to speak to her pastor,” said Belfield.
Valentine then opened up to her pastor, even though another deputy was still present in the room. She admitted to going to the house to try to catch her fiancé with the other woman. Her attorney tried to have the conversation removed from evidence arguing pastor privilege.
“Are you working as a pastor or a deputy? He never once told her, ‘Peggy, you have to be careful in what you say because I’m working as a police officer. What you say will be used against you,’” said Belfield. “You wouldn’t sit in the room while she was talking to her lawyer, then why would you sit in the room talking to her pastor?”
Belfield explained there are three prongs of the pastor protection clause. First, the pastor must be a member of the cloth. Second, a conversation has to be one where a person is seeking spiritual guidance.
“There was no question she was seeking spiritual guidance,” he said.
Third, he continued, it must be in confidentiality. The state argued it wasn’t in confidentiality since another deputy was in the room.
The judge ruled there was no expectation of privacy since she wasn’t alone with her pastor. The judge allowed the jury to hear the confession multiple times. The jury returned a guilty verdict on home invasion and attempted first-degree murder Monday night.
“On first degree murder you have to prove specific intent. She went over there to check if her man was there. There was no specific intent to murder,” argued Belfield. “If you can’t trust your pastor in this day and age, who can you trust?”
Valentine is currently being held at the Ascension Parish Jail in Donaldsonville. The judge ordered pre-sentencing on December 30th. A sentencing date is set for February 27th.
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